A couple days ago Jim Press, President of Toyota Motor North America, gave a talk to the National Press Club in Washington. He talked about the history of Toyota, the early trials and tribulations, what led to Toyota’s current success, and future plans for Toyota in North America. Although his audience of politicos and press types required that the speech be dumbed down quite a bit, he still described how lean manufacturing can create considerable success.
There were the usual stats, some rather amazing:
- Toyota has the #1 selling passenger car in America (Camry), the #1 luxury brand (Lexus), and the #1 hybrid (Prius).
- They have 9 plants in North America, with a 10th on the way.
- They directly employ 32,000 Americans, and over 170,000 if you count dealers and suppliers.
- They purchase $28 billion in parts from 400 suppliers in 35 states.
- A new R&D center is being built in Michigan, soon to be home to over 1,000 engineers.
- Toyota spends over $22 million PER DAY on R&D.
But what wasn’t said is also food for thought…
- No whining about lawyers
- No whining about unions
- No whining about regulations
- No whining about energy costs
Compare that to a typical speech by Bill Ford or Rick Wagoner. Or compare it to the latest rants by NAM, which was also in attendance at the speech. A quick sampling of recent NAM blog posts finds articles on offshore drilling, global warming, the evils of unions, the usual bashing of trial lawyers, and even a few on how the National Education Association is spending a ton of money on things that have nothing to do with education. Quite a bit of finger-pointing, much of it perhaps correct.
But none of it really matters much.
Mr. Press of Toyota indirectly pointed that out, as did we in a blog post last week. Toyota is very successful in the United States. And domestic companies of all sizes can compete with the rest of the world and win. They are the companies with the guts to take a long and often painful look inside themselves to find waste. They are the companies that recognize that there is value in all employees that far surpasses their hourly wage, and they grow and tap into that knowledge and experience instead of trying to bribe 35,000 of them to leave.
As he points out, Toyota is ranked #1 in the U.S. for supplier relations… while GM and Ford try to bash every last penny out of their suppliers. Toyota has already sold over 350,000 hybrids saving over 155 million gallons of gas… instead of insisting we need cheaper gas. Toyota relentlessly pursues perfections… while GM and Ford try to "innovate" their way out of a waste dungeon.
Perhaps a little harsh, as Mr. Press also pointed out that he’s seeing some signs of recovery at Ford and GM, especially overseas. But obviously he’s not overly worried about a real competitive situation.
Instead of focusing on external factors that are adding 5 or 10% to your cost structure, how about looking inward to attack the 20 to 30% of internal waste?